Amidst the Syrian Civil War, Syrian Arab Airlines began Airbus A340-300 operations on April 12th, with a flight to Dubai as RB515. According to Flightglobal, the aircraft was welcomed in Damascus with a ceremony including the Syrian Transport Minister Ali Hammoud.
YK-AZA is a 16 year old Airbus A340-313X that was originally delivered to Cathay Pacific in 2001, and in use until 2010, where it was stored in Victorville, California, according to Airfleets. It was used by Srilankan Airlines from 2011 until 2015, where it was again stored in the United States, before being moved to Kazakhstan in April 2016 and re-registered. It was then moved to Iran, before being recently transferred to Syria and re-registered once again as YK-AZA. Current U.S. sanctions against Syria forbid the transferring of aircraft parts to the country, however by being transferred through Kazakhstan and Iran, the aircraft seems to have evaded any limitations due to U.S. sanctions.
The Syrian Transport Ministry was reported stating, “Air transport is of great importance in supporting the country’s economy,” and also stressed that the introduction of the aircraft shows the recovery of the Syrian transport sector, despite the ongoing civil war.
The aircraft is equipped with 24 business-class seats. Besides being used on flights to Dubai, reports say that the aircraft will be used on flights to China, as well as different locations throughout Latin America and the rest of Asia.